Wednesday, 18 May 2016

How long does it take to knit a scarf?

(photo from ebay)
I saw some of this Stylecraft Poodle wool a couple of years ago in a shop in town  and saw from the label '1 ball=1 scarf'.  I'm not a good knitter, in fact I can only do plain stitch and haven't ever progressed from being able to knit a scarf.  I really liked the wool which was lovely and soft, having mohair added in, and thought it looked simple enough for even me to manage. 
 So, I bought some in 'Lavender', took the label off and read the instructions.
 Four pictures, easy to follow, I thought.  However, I was completely baffled by the way the wool looked as there was a black tape at one side, with the wool hanging down from it and for the life of me, I just couldn't work out where the needles went, how you made a stitch or even how to start it off. I looked for help from the Internet and while there were stockists and people who had used it, there were no instructions for a beginner that I could find. I left it for a while...
A year or two later, I came across it again and had a brainwave - I could ask a very good knitter at work and she'd be able to sort it out.  However, she was baffled too.  I asked the lady on the wool stall at the market, but she'd no idea either.  I took it to my Mum, who is also a good knitter and she was stumped .  My mother in law, also a good knitter, couldn't work it out either.  By this time, I was ready to donate it to a good cause.  In the end, my sister worked it out and showed me how to knit it and that the stitches were made using the black tape bit.  I spent an hour or two knitting it up and she finished the ends off.
 Here it is, modelled by a dressmaker's dummy (and very nice she looks in it too).  So, it took me a good two years to knit my scarf and I don't think I shall be rushing to knit myself any more.  (I have since found out that Stylecraft is not making this wool anymore - perhaps other people have been as confused and baffled as we all were!)

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Tulip-o-rama 2016

 I am a fan of tulips (as you may know) and was eagerly awaiting this year's collection.  Due to the cold Spring we have had, they were behind by a week or two, but since the sun came out at the weekend, they are all in full flower. I grow them in pots and tubs and then transfer them to the borders.  Some do come back. Above is a combination of Negrita (the large pink), Ronaldo (the purple) and China Pink (the pale pink).
 I do like this combination - Ronaldo with Princess Irene.
 Here's a close up of Ronaldo - rich and luscious.
 My favourite Ballerina, in the border, back lit by the sun and looking luminous.
 This is Upstar, which I received in a Seasons blog swap last Autumn - thank you to Maria from Dotty's Daughter.  I like the pink and white colouring.
 They are very pretty and are brightening up the front door.
 That's a real lipstick pink.
 Princess Irene again, with delicate streaks of reds and pinks.
 This year's Ballerina, just starting to unfurl in the sun.
 Negrita, Ronaldo and China Pink in the sun.
 A random lone fringed pink tulip which was in the garden and not planted by me.  It didn't flower for a few years but appears to be back now.
 Ballerina, one Red Shine (behind to the left) and the fringed pink. Ballerina's lovely scent wafted around well in the sun.
A close up of Princess Irene.  It is a lighter orange than Ballerina and is shorter.  I am already thinking about tulips for next year...

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Questions and Answers

I was very kindly nominated for this award by Maria at Dotty's Daughter .  There are some things I need to do, which are:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2. Copy/paste the above button to your post/sidebar
3. Answer the 10 questions the person who nominated you has asked.
4. Nominate 5 bloggers you would like to share with your readers and let them know you have nominated them.
5. Create 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

While I am really happy to answer the questions, I won't be nominating any bloggers, although I have added some some questions at the end, so if any of my lovely readers would like to take part, please do.  Here are Maria's questions:

1.  Do you prefer to drive or be chauffeured ?
I prefer to be chauffeured.  I can drive, but really don't enjoy it at all and get very stressed, so have managed to avoid it for five years!

2.  What skill or hobby would you like to learn?
In an ideal world, I think it would be silversmithing, although stone carving or wood carving also appeal. Realistically, I am going to do some crewel work, using wool rather than thread, to complete a Jacobean Tree design.  Judging from the pattern, it will take quite some time.

3.  Who is your favourite female singer?
Ooh, tricky one.  Classical singer - Joan Sutherland or Beverley Hoch (really high, beautiful coloratura soprano voices), and non-classical singer, probably Dinah Washington.
 Dame Joan Sutherland (photo from Wikipedia)
 Beverley Hoch (photo from

Dinah Washington (photo from Wikipedia)
4.  Name 3 historical people you would like to have afternoon tea with and why ?
Jane Austen, Anne Bronte and Elizabeth Siddal.  I really enjoy Jane Austen's novels, and I think she would have some wonderful observations to make.  I have always felt that Anne Bronte has been in the shadow of her two talented older sisters. but she wrote about people who did not have a voice at that time (governesses and abused wives), and tackled some social taboos from the point of view of women, so I think she would have been a fascinating person to talk to. Elizabeth Siddal was a Pre-Raphaelite model and and artist in her own right too.  She was the muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, became his wife and died tragically young.  I would love to find out more about the Pre-Raphaelite circle and about the models and wives from someone who was there.  
 Anne Bronte by Branwell Bronte (image from Wikipedia)
 Anne Bronte by Charlotte Bronte (image from Wikipedia)
 Elizabeth Siddal (self portrait) (image from Wikipedia)
Elizabeth Siddal at the easel (by Dante Gabriel Rossetti) (image from Wikipedia)
I think there would be some interesting (and strong) opinions voiced over the tea and scones!

5.  Your favourite beach in the UK?
Hunstanton, in Norfolk.  I spent many family holidays there, staying at a great aunt's house and have lots of happy and funny memories.

Hunstanton Cliffs (image from Wikipedia)

6.  Your favourite childhood story or character ?
Tricky one.  I liked E Nesbit's Five Children and It, The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley and many others, but if pushed, I think I'd have to choose 'The Children of Green Knowe' by L.M Boston.  I am planning to visit Hemingford Grey, the Green Knowe of the books, hopefully later this year.

7.  Your favourite thing to put on toast?
Raspberry Jam.

8.  What decor  would your "dream" home be..vintage, whitewashed/rustic , classical(Laura Ashley/Liberty) or modern?
Probably Classical - some florals, light pastel colours and nice high ceilings - square rooms would be good too.  Georgian or Victorian architecture are my favourites.

9.  Do you prefer written notes/lists or to record them onto phones/computers?
Written notes, definitely.  While I use my computer diary a lot at work, I still rely on written notes.

10. If you could swap places with someone for one week, who would it be and what would you do (or try to do)?
I would like to do something to help animals in some way, but I think that would need more than just one week.  Also, I'd be in tears most of the time, and if I wasn't crying, I would probably be really angry about all the cruelty.

Thanks, Maria - some really interesting questions there.  Well done for slogging your way through the answers!
Right, here are some questions, just in case anyone would like to answer them on their blogs.
1. What's your favourite colour?
2.  What's your favourite season and why?
3.  If you had a day off, what would you do?
4.  Period Drama or Sitcom?
5.  What's the best book you have ever read and why?
6.  Cats or Dogs?
7.  What's your favourite drink of choice?
8.  What's your favourite painting?
9.  Staycation or holiday abroad?
10. If you could go back to any time, when would it be?

If you do answer any of the questions, please let me know - I'd like to read your answers!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

My first beaded Kumihimo jewellery - as seen on TV!

 You may remember that I started trying kumihimo ( a Japanese braiding technique) to use in my jewellery making.  I managed an eight strand braid in satin cord and was happy with that, but I really wanted to be able to add gemstones into the braid.

I bought this DVD from Jewellery Maker and watched it several times.  One of the projects featured was a Lariat style braided necklace, which you can see on the cover above and I knew I had to try it.  The thing I liked most was that it didn't use any findings (clasps, jump rings etc.).  

I gave myself a bit more of a challenge by using gemstone chips, which were a bit more tricky to thread on the the S-Lon thread I was using.  (This thread is my favourite at the moment).  I used clear nail varnish to create a 'needle' at the end of the threads and the chips went onto the thread much more easily. 
Braiding is a meditative process which I really enjoy and it can be picked up and put down as you wish.  So, having used some of my favourite colours and gemstones (sky blue apatite, neon blue apatite, amazonite and tanzanite), I decided to send a photo to Jewellery Maker Wall of Fame.  This is where JM features jewellery made by viewers from mainly JM supplies and they will show a selection on the morning shows. Everyone who enters (whether their photo is shown or not) is entered into a draw (which takes place on a Wednesday) to win £100 of credit or £50 of credit with JM.  That would be rather nice...
 I sent a photo in and forgot about it,  I was half watching the programme on Saturday when what should I see, but my necklace being featured! ( I managed to get the images from the JM bit on youtube - the shows are uploaded).  (I'm not being sponsored by JM - I am a customer and have been for at least four years).
 Here is my necklace's moment of fame!
 Here's a close up.  I was very excited, as you can imagine.  I am working on some more of these necklaces using 6mm gemstones.  I think I may be getting obsessed...

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Happy things in mid April

As I usually do, I have made some lemon curd - I associate the sunny yellow and slightly sharp taste with Spring.  I made a cake (the thought of lemon curd and buttercream was too much to resist) and to avoid the usual problem I have of the layers of buttercream and lemon curd fighting against each other and causing slippage of the top layer of cake, I mixed the lemon curd into the buttercream. Success!
 The cake stays intact, no slippage of the layers and the delicious lemon flavour comes through the buttercream.
 Other things making me happy are in the garden.  My Lathyrus vernus Alboroseus is flowering again...
 ...and the patio peony I bought last year - Madrid I think, or it could be Athens - has six buds.
It's the start of my tulip season and these Ballerina tulips (my favourite) were from last year or the year before as I planted them in the border after taking them out of their pots.  They are also earlier to flower than the ones I bought this year.
 Muscari latifolium which is my favourite grape hyacinth, due to the lovely shading.
New patio peonies, bought as bare roots last month.  This is 'Rome'.
 Another patio peony just nosing out of the ground.  Rome again (as I received two small and separate plants in the order, rather than one larger one.)
 An epimedium which I bought many years ago and thought was lost, has just made its presence known and is flowering beautifully.
 Erythronium Pagoda is also doing well.
 Clematis Alpina Rosy Pagoda has some buds...
...and one open flower.  I hope there will be lost more to enjoy for the next couple of weeks of April.

Monday, 11 April 2016


In October 2014, I had some sewing lessons to help my confidence, and made lots of interesting things, including a tunic dress (the Kate pattern from Sew Me Something) and I used some vintage material - see the photo above.  I really liked it and made several others in different material.  While  I wore the original, somehow the others just didn't feel comfortable around the shoulders and under the sleeves, so they languished.  The pattern has to be loose as there are no fastenings, but the shoulders were a bit too wide for me.  However, I bought the Beatrice pinafore pattern and when it arrived, having had a good look at it, I realised that I could take the sleeves off the tunics (using the Beatrice pattern to help me), bind the edges and wear them as pinafores with a long sleeved t-shirt and leggings.  So that's what I did!
 I now have several pinafores ready to go - I love this flowery material as it makes me smile.
 This was a 'ditsy' floral print bought from a vintage fair.
 This one was floral baby cord and I have worn it quite a bit, including to work.
This white and grey floral will be great as I can put pretty much any coloured top under it.  I have since bought some green floral material and am going to challenge myself by creating my own bias binding.
I have more material waiting and I am thinking I may make another one...or two...

Monday, 4 April 2016

Tea cup and Mug Exchange - results

 I have recently completed another swap, although this one was an exchange.  It was the 8th Annual Tea cup and Mug exchange, organised by Stephanie at The Enchanting Rose.  The idea is a lovely one - send a tea cup or mug along with tea or coffee and other gifts (if you wanted to add any extras) to your recipient.  Someone else would send you a gift too.  I signed up and was sent my recipient's details - Sandra at Ravenhill Cottage.  You could also add in some details about yourself, such as favourite colours, blog information, hobbies.  So, I sent my parcel off to Sandra in Canada and duly received a parcel back from Mary in the USA.  She had obviously done her homework and had chosen the most lovely gifts.  There was a beautiful mug with blue flowers on it, two very generously sized pieces of material (which I was very excited about), black tea and white tea, handmade earrings in the shape of seeds and some petunia seeds.
 I think she had chosen beautifully for me!
How pretty are the earrings?  A HUGE thank you to Mary for the generous and thoughtful gifts. I am really looking forward to making something with the material.
 I found out that my recipient liked pink and purple, so off I went.  I made a bookmark, pearl earrings, a bracelet, and added a tea bag stand and English breakfast tea.
 Sandra had asked for a mug (as I had too) and I found this one with pinks and purples and cups on it.
Here were the gifts ready to be securely packaged up.  It was an incredibly straightforward exchange thanks to Stephanie's wonderful organisation (it must have been a mammoth task requiring military precision) and I really enjoyed taking part.